The beauty and the professor
Lara Dutta has become a household word. I went to a party last week attended by quite a few ladies and very few gentlemen. Everyone was talking about Lara and the Miss Universe contest. When they were not talking about Lara's poise they were talking about Aishwarya's eyes. When they were not talking about either they were talking about Sushmita's title. One guy tried to draw the attention of the gathering by saying he knew someone who knew someone else whose friend's husband had a sister who went to school with Lara. He kept chanting her name all night. Then there was a lady who had actually seen Aishwarya
Rai. "I almost touched her," the lady said, and everyone went 'OOOOOOOOH!'. She held the ground on that basis for some time. Almost everyone had something or other to say about one of these beauties. They asked me to say something for my part. I thought for a while and said, "All these victories have done a lot of good to Indian women." I could easily see they were disappointed. For some reason or other it was a dull thing to say. One lady looked consolingly at me so as to say -"You've done your best. Don't worry." Then they got into an argument about whose eyes were more attractive - Aishwarya's or Lara's? They were equally split on this. They wanted an impartial judge to decide the matter. I was the only person in that group who hadn't taken sides. They considered whether to let me do the honor for five nanoseconds after which they decided I wouldn't do, as I did not possess enough knowledge. Then they got into an argument as to whether Aishwarya Rai would have won the Miss Universe title if she were sent in place of
Sushmita. It went on like that for a long time. When I left at midnight they still hadn't decided whom they would send to represent our country at the Miss World contest next year.
I came to a conclusion as I drove back home that every single Indian must be thinking about this Miss Universe thing. I was proved wrong that very night when I got a call from my favourite professor at my alma mater, Dr.
R.K.S., a man for whom I have great respect, a man who I had being trying to avoid as I have in my possession a book that belongs to him, a man whose bidding I carry out without questioning (except for the one that tells me to return that book). He was one Indian who wasn't taken by awe by the winnings by Indian beauties. I got a call that night from him
"Hello, Professor. How are you?" I said as soon as I realized it was he on the phone.
"Forget about the hello-professor stuff? I want that book you borrowed from me ten years ago. I want it now."
I wanted to change the topic to make him forget his book. So I said.
"Sir, did you hear that one of our girls won the Miss Universe?"
"What did you say?" He asked.
"I said Miss India won the Miss Universe contest this year. Did you hear about it?"
"Did I hear about it? Of course, I did," he seemed a bit irritated. " You're the seventh person in the last hour to ask me about it. Why are you guys crazy about this Miss Universe thing?"
"Because it's an achievement by an Indian, sir. In fact it is a national achievement." I said proudly.
"A national achievement?"
"My dear chap, would you please tell me what was your contribution to this 'national achievement'?" The professor was a sharp man. One thing he knew well was to ask questions.
"Nothing, sir. Well… I watched it on TV. That's all I did."
"Then, why do you call it a national achievement?"
"Because our Miss Universe said it put our country on the world map, sir. That's exactly what it did."
"Did you study geography at school?"
"When did you study geography?"
"I used to study during the night before the exams, sir."
"Don't make me lose my patience. How long ago was that when you studied geography?"
"Fifteen years, sir."
"Did you look at the world map then?"
"Did you see India in it?"
"Then why do we need to put it back on the map again?"
I hadn't gone to that party for nothing. I used every bit of information I picked up there to argue with the professor.
"You completely missed my point, sir." I said. " Winning Miss Universe makes the world aware of the abilities of women in India. It tells them Indian women are capable of doing things. The world wonders at the beauty and the brains of the contestant from our country who represents all our women. Do you realize, sir, that India has come out right on top, not just where beauty is concerned but where the status of the woman is concerned as well?"
"This Miss Universe - is she illiterate?"
"No, sir. I don't think so."
"Has she been through poverty?"
"Was she ever beaten by her husband for dowry?"
"I don't think she is married, sir."
"Then why do you call her a representative of all Indian women?"
The professor got me there. I did not have an answer for him. Not hearing anything from me he continued.
" D.S, tell me one good thing this pageant will do for the women of our country?"
"Its going to do a lot of things for our women, sir."
"NAME ONE THING!"
"Sir, did you hear what our Miss Universe said during the contest?"
"What did she say?"
"She said the majority of women in our country are illiterate and uneducated. So we have to start to educate them. That is what she will do with India and progress to the rest of the world."
"Is that true?"
"Yes, sir. She has always wanted to do social work. The Miss Universe contest has given her a platform. It has given her a chance to do something that she would like for people, especially in India where there is much poverty. And do you know what Miss World, also one of our ladies, said, sir?"
"She said she wanted to help in bringing about changes to society and spreading awareness of education."
"Is that true too?"
"It is. One of our Miss India winners said she is also going to educate our women about AIDS. Sir, can't you see it's all happening for Indian women? Do you know what"
"Shut up, will you!"
"You say your Miss Worlds and Miss Universes want to educate our women about AIDS, population, education, etc, etc. Now tell me this. Can we close all our schools because these girls promised to do it?"
"Can the government stop all its AIDS awareness programs because some girl said she would do that task for them?"
"Has the status of Indian women changed after this pageant?"
"Has this victory made our country a fully developed country overnight?"
"Then quit yapping about this 'national achievement' and do some useful work for a change."
"Sir, what you don't realize is it still is a great achievement to win the Miss Universe title. Isn't it?"
"It is an individual achievement. It doesn't have much for the women of the country as such."
"But it is still something we can talk about or write about."
"Well, do you know many women come out as toppers in the Civil Services examinations every year? Why don't you talk about them? Why don't you write about them? Is their achievement in any way inferior to that of your beauties?"
"I think I get your point, sir."
"Are they not as clever or as intelligent as your Miss Universe?"
"I perfectly understand what you are saying, sir. It was my mistake."
"Are they not..
"Sir! Sir! Sir! I shall mail that book to you the first thing tomorrow. I am going to hang up. Bye-bye, sir." I said hurriedly and hung up. I did not send him the book as promised. I wasn't going to. The book is with me and like other books, which I have, which belonged to others before now belongs to me.
By the time I went to another party two days later I had completely grasped the professor's point of view. Therefore I decided to illuminate the people there, whoever they where (I knew no one except the host), on the true implications of beauty pageants.
As anticipated a man started talking about it.
"Did you guys watch the Miss Universe program on TV?" he asked.
As soon as he uttered 'Miss Universe' I pounced on him and started asking him questions.
"Why do you think you need a Miss Universe to put the map of our country on the globe?" I asked him.
He was surprised. He was stumped. He did not know what to say. I did not give him time to recover and followed up with a couple more questions.
"Has the status of Indian women changed after this pageant? Has this victory made our country a fully developed country overnight?"
By this time everyone was staring at me in a way that made me nervous.
"Who is this guy? Who let him in here?" the fellow I questioned turned to the host and asked. The host took me aside and said, "Cool it D.S. Did you have any bad dreams last night?" he asked.
"No." I said.
"Did you watch any horror movies."
"Yes. I watched The Blair Witch Project."
"That explains it. I'll tell you what. Go home and take some rest and I promise not to tell anyone about what happened today. How does that sound to you?"
"It sounds right to me."
"Well. Good night then. And don't watch any more horror movies when you're alone."
Now I don't know whether my professor was right or wrong. But one thing is sure. I am not going to talk about this in parties anymore.